Sunday, October 12, 2008

Harris County election details (updated)

Reposting with a few updates and corrections to the original September 25 post, due to questions posed about the SD-17 race ...

-- There will be 874 voting precincts in the nation's third-largest county. Some precincts will be combined in polling places, being determined by your respective county commissioner even now.

-- There are 263 ballot versions in the general election, and more than a hundred others for "limited" voting (for example, someone from out-of-state voting just a presidential and/or federal candidate ballot).

-- There are thirteen different election entities, which split precincts in some cases (such as school districts and MUDs).

-- The special election for SD-17 (79 precincts in Harris, but also on ballots in Jefferson, Brazoria, Fort Bend, and Galveston counties) will be at the very top of the ballot, above the presidential candidates and even the straight-party button. Alan Bernstein explains:

The contest will appear before the "straight ticket" option that allows voters, with a single physical motion, to vote for all candidates of a particular party, from president to justice of the peace. But, since there are multiple Democrats and Republicans in the SD 17 race, the straight ticket vote would not apply to it anyway. Voters in the district can mark their choice in that race and then get on with the businesses of voting "straight ticket" or cherrypicking their way down the ballot.

Chris Bell will appear first on the ballot in Fort Bend, Galveston and Jefferson counties, in the third position in Brazoria County, and in Harris County Bell's name appears as the last one listed in the SD-17 contest. As I have previously noted -- and despite what you may have read elsewhere, like in Al's post above -- he is the one true Democrat in the race.

-- Here's a sample ballot, listing all of the races. You will obviously get to vote for a single Congressional and statehouse candidate to represent your area, but all of the judicial candidates and all of the Harris County executive races will appear on your ballot (if you're voting in Harris, of course).

-- The deadline for voter registration was October 6. Learn which candidates represent you and will be on your ballot through the various links listed here. Early voting begins October 20. Here are the EV locations, hours, and more useful information.

-- Harris County election officials project that 1.2 million votes will be cast here. If that holds historically accurate it would represent about 20% 15% of the statewide tally, which works out to six somewhere between 8 and 9 million Texas votes.

-- Finally, Harris County will be parallel-testing its voting machines for the first time ...

Parallel testing, also known as election-day testing, involves selecting voting machines at random and testing them as realistically as possible during the period that votes are being cast. The fundamental question addressed by such tests arise from the fact that pre-election testing is almost always done using a special test mode in the voting system, and corrupt software could potentially arrange to perform honestly while in test mode while performing dishonestly during a real election.

And I will be present as they do.

Charles Kuffner points out in the original posting's comments that I significantly underestimated the statewide turnout, leading to the strikeouts and revisions above.

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